So I went this morning. Talk about surreal. There I was, not a soul in sight anywhere. I was standing in front of his grave marker, solemn and contemplative, head down. No cars drove by the cemetery in that moment and the snow started to come down very heavily. It felt like one of those moments you read about in books or in serious dramas. Yet this was real life. This was MY life and, for some reason, it just felt right that I should have solitude and quiet in that moment.
And then it passed and the emotional pain hit like someone ripping off a Band-Aid. Intense, searing, yet short lived. I was left with the dull throb of missing someone I would never see again, but being there - seeing Doc in his final resting place - gave me the closure I needed desperately to fully move on. I didn't realize how badly I needed it until that moment. It made me wonder why I needed that closure, that finality, so keenly.
I thought about it on my walk back to the car, on the ride home and a good portion of the early afternoon. And then, it hit me. I needed this because I never got closure for all of the death and violence I experienced over in Iraq. It made me think about all of the other veterans with PTSD that were suffering just like me and it made me realize: If there is ONE THING that can trigger us and bring it all back into our consciousness, it's having someone close to us die and not getting the closure we need to move on.
In retrospect, I recognize now that a lot of the anger I have felt for the past few days was not anger felt but, rather, anger remembered. Grief. Not felt, but remembered. Helplessness, intensely remembered. I recognize now that this event, the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Doc's passing and the way in which I was informed, has been a blessing in disguise. It may take it a while for me to fully accept that, but I know I eventually will. What I have gained from this experience is how losing someone I care about will affect me in the future. It also equips me to support my fellow veterans if they find themselves in the same position.
So take heed. If it is in your power, do everything you can to provide adequate closure for veterans with PTSD. Don't blindside them. Do what you can to be compassionate and try to leave them feeling like they are in control of the situation and how they choose to grieve.
VA Admin, ARE YOU LISTENING?